Sherwood launches an imaginative and immersive urban fantasy world with this series opener featuring a delightful mix of primary and secondary characters. I was immediately intrigued by the mystery of how Dag’s “magic” isn’t allowed in this setting, especially when he is blatantly on the side of good, but I was also excited for him to find a home and safety under Stefan’s acceptance. What starts as a relatively straightforward external plot (getting formal approval for Dag to practice his version of magic) gets swept up in more convoluted large-scale political issues, but I never felt overwhelmed by the characters or their roles in the bigger picture. Luckily, Dag has both Stefan, a powerful magic user, and Mikkel, a man with plenty of other forms of power in the form of wealth and connections, in his corner.
Oh, and they’re also all crushing on each other like mad, which is both adorable and poignant at turns considering that all three have vastly different relationship histories. This baggage means that each man is a bit torn by their interest in the other two but assumes those other two likely only want (or deserve each other). The inherent goodness in each man (yes, Mikkel, even you) means that there aren’t bad feelings over this, just a sweet sort of longing.
This trio could have gone in circles forever, aside from some unconventional dating, awkward late-night kitchen conversations, and a bit of kissing (the kissing is mostly Mikkel’s fault), until a crisis forces them to jumpstart their relationship in the most dramatic way possible. This doesn’t result in “instant love” between all three of them, and they have to juggle their new circumstances with lots of external plot implications. However, Sherwood has crafted three characters who balance each other nicely, so the following emphasis on communication doesn’t seem contrived. And while this is a polyamorous relationship, the focus is more on emotions and relationship development than spice for the sake of spice.
Though I occasionally had a difficult time figuring out the interplay between the mundane and magical governments and their effect on each, I had a great time in this world and with these characters. I look forward to returning and seeing how Dag, Stefan, and Mikkel continue to upend the status quo.
Disclaimer: I received a digital review copy of this book from the author.